If you take CBD for its therapeutic benefits on a regular basis, you probably don’t want to be without it whilst travelling. This begs the question: Can you take CBD oil on a plane? The answer depends on the type of CBD oil you use, how much of it you’re travelling with, and where you’re going.
Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of flying with CBD in the UK.
What's the legal status of CBD products in the UK?
It is legal to buy CBD in the UK (and most other Western countries). Nevertheless, the same cannot be said of all products containing CBD. To understand why we must first consider where CBD comes from and how it makes its way into the products you see on the shelf.
Marijuana vs. hemp
CBD is one of many naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant. It is largely responsible for cannabis’ major health benefits.
There are two sources of CBD: marijuana and industrial hemp. Marijuana, and products derived from it, remain illegal in the UK without a prescription.
Commercial CBD products are therefore made from hemp. Unlike marijuana, hemp contains only minute quantities of THC, the psychoactive cannabis chemical that makes you “stoned.” Marijuana is illegal because it has a high THC content; hemp is legal because it has a very low THC content.
To be more specific: under UK law, CBD products are legal provided they are made from hemp seeds containing no more than 0.2% THC. Such an amount is too small to result in intoxication.
Different types of CBD oil
So, you’re thinking, can I bring CBD oil on a plane or not? For domestic travel the answer is yes, assuming the THC content of your CBD oil does not exceed the 0.2% threshold. (We’ll cover international flights in a later section.)
If you’re worried about purchasing something that contains too much THC, there are a few measures you can take. The most important thing is to buy from a reputable CBD company that has good reviews and is transparent about production methods, ingredients and laboratory testing.
Beyond that, it helps to know the difference between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. In the case of full spectrum products, the CBD is accompanied by trace amounts of THC (maximum 0.2%) as well as aromatic terpenes. By including these additional cannabis ingredients, full spectrum CBD takes advantage of the entourage effect, whereby said ingredients work together to generate better overall effects.
Isolate products, on the other hand, are pure CBD. If you’d prefer a product that does not contain any THC, CBD isolate is a good option. Just note that its therapeutic properties may be dampened somewhat by the absence of those other compounds.
Occupying the middle ground between full spectrum and isolate is something called broad spectrum. In addition to CBD, these products contain several natural cannabis ingredients like terpenes and flavonoids—but no THC. In theory, the efficacy of broad spectrum is greater than isolate but lesser than full spectrum.
Note that these same rules apply to other CBD products, such as CBD gummies, topicals and capsules.
Taking liquids and CBD oils in your carry-on
Before taking CBD oil on a plane, ensure that you understand the rules and limitations regarding hand luggage. Per British Airways, all liquid items are restricted to 100ml (3.4oz). CBD oil exceeding 100ml cannot be carried on.
Moreover, you’re obliged to put all liquid containers into a clear plastic bag with a maximum capacity of 1 litre. When passing through airport security, you must remove the bag containing your CBD oil and other liquids from your carry-on so that it can be screened separately.
It’s best to keep your CBD oil in the original bottle. That way security personnel can easily see what it is and you’re spared the awkward task of explaining an unmarked container of liquid.
Returning to the UK with CBD purchased abroad
Purchasing CBD abroad and returning to the UK with it is generally not an issue, provided the CBD in question satisfies all the legal requirements mentioned earlier.
In other words, it must be derived from hemp—not marijuana—and its THC content must not exceed 0.2%. This is a point of significance given that caps on THC levels vary considerably by country.
CBD bought in the United States, for example, may contain up to 0.3% THC, while in Italy CBD products can have as much as 0.6% THC. Such differences, though small, are technically enough to put you on the wrong side of UK law, so it’s best not to take chances.
Be extra cautious when shopping for CBD in countries or regions where marijuana is legal. Examples include Holland, Belgium and some US states. Many cannabis products sold in these places—including CBD oil—are made from marijuana and contain high levels of THC.
Travelling from the UK to other destinations
If you’re travelling abroad, it’s imperative that you research your destination country’s drug laws before packing a CBD product. Considering CBD’s widespread acceptance in the UK, the US and much of Europe, it can be easy to overlook the fact that it remains strictly prohibited in other parts of the world.
Here the cliche “better safe than sorry” definitely applies. If there’s any doubt at all in your mind, don’t bring it. Otherwise, you may be risking a heavy fine or even a prison sentence for drug trafficking. Yes, really.
Which countries don't allow CBD oil?
Below is a list of common travel destinations where CBD products are tightly restricted or totally banned. It is not meant to be exhaustive; be sure to do your own research before you carry CBD oil across international borders.
CBD is restricted in:
- South Korea
- New Zealand
CBD is banned in:
- The Bahamas
- All Middle Eastern countries except Israel
Benefits of taking CBD oil before and during a flight
There are several reasons why someone might wish to consume CBD prior to and/or during their travels. These have to do with its therapeutic properties and its ability to provide relief from both physical and psychological discomfort.
Despite its relative safety, air travel makes a lot of people uneasy. It’s not uncommon to feel anxious before and during a flight. Research indicates that CBD can help treat anxiety symptoms. In one study, CBD was found to reduce anxiety and discomfort in people with a fear of public speaking.
A dose of CBD could help quieten those pre-flight jitters.
Air travel may be convenient, but unless you can afford to fly business class, it’s not exactly comfortable. For those with chronic back problems, taking a long flight is a dreadful prospect.
Numerous methods exist for managing chronic pain. As far as natural remedies go, CBD is near the top of the list.
A 2016 study examined the effects of transdermal CBD gel on arthritic rats. Following four days of treatment, the rats had less pain and swelling. Moreover, the gel caused no evident side effects.
If your back tends to act up on long flights, consider packing a bottle of CBD oil in your hand luggage.
The advisability of flying with CBD oil varies depending on the circumstances of your trip. If the CBD was legally purchased in the UK, there is nothing to prevent your taking it on a domestic flight. As for international travel, it’s incumbent upon you to research whether CBD is legal in your destination country. If it’s not, or if its legal status is unclear, don’t take a chance—leave it behind.